Welcome to Plant Preview, a blog dedicated to helping gardeners learn about gardening techniques and preview new plant cultivars. Read about new plants here first and hear how your "comrades in compost" are making use of new plant introductions in their gardens and landscapes. Blog author Geri Laufer is a life-long dirt gardener, degreed horticulturist, author and former County Extension Agent. Plant Preview is copyrighted by Geri Laufer.
Thursday, May 17, 2012
Extraordinary History Behind Twist of Lime™ Abelia
Twist of Lime™ Abelia’s
backstory is an enthralling one of arrogance and disappointment.
The genus contains about 30
species. It was named for noted British physician and naturalist-author on
China, Dr. Clarke Abel, 1780 – 1826, who served as Chief Medical Officer and
Naturalist to the Embassy of Lord Amherst at the Court of Peking and in Canton
in 1816-17. During this time there was
resentment on the part of the Chinese due to perceived British arrogance and
because of British involvement in the opium trade. The British were technically
limited in plant collection to the Portuguese-controlled island of Macao.
In his role as naturalist, Dr. Abel had
collected many unfamiliar plants and seeds, all new to Western science at the
time. He also wrote a book of his observations and corresponded with renowned English
botanist Sir Joseph Banks.
Lord Amherst’s objective in China
was to improve British-Sino relations. To this end, the Embassy staff traveled
to the capital, and Abel made detailed observations and collected wild and cultivated
plants along the way. However, the mission backfired when Amherst refused to kowtow
to the Chinese Emperor and the entire party was banished from China. Before
departing on the hazardous journey back to England, Abel entrusted a small
portion of his extensive botanical collection to a colleague, Sir George
The ship ran aground on
uncharted reefs and was badly damaged, causing some of the cargo to be jettisoned,
including Abel’s botanical collection. Returning to the site the next day to
try and rescue some of the botanical chests, they were attacked and captured by
Malay pirates. Eventually, Abel did make it back to England and Staunton
returned the remaining small portion of Abel’s collection. One of the specimens
was named Abelia chinensis in Abel’s
honor posthumously in 1844, and is an ancestor of Twist of Lime™ Abelia. .
Meanwhile, Robert Fortune,
another famous plant collector, was also sending back live specimens from China,
including one that later would be named Abelia
uniflora. The first Abelia chinensis x
A. uniflora crosses were made at the
Rovelli Nursery in Italy producing a hybrid named Abelia x grandiflora in 1886 and was the best Abelia of its time.
This is the fascinating history
behind my favorite Abelia, Abelia x
grandiflora, Twist of Lime™ by Garden Debut®. I’ve planted my Twist of
Lime™ Abelia an area of the garden I call the “golden triangle” planted with
specimens having gold or yellow variegation or yellow flowers. In the photo, Twist of Lime™ Abelia is in the foreground, flanked by Euphorbia x martini ‘Ascot
Rainbow’ and Forsythia koreana ‘Ilgwang’. The brilliant leaves
of Twist of Lime™ is perfect for lighting up the partial shade. Other landscape uses for Twist of Lime™ Abelia
include specimen plantings in gardens and/or in a mixed border with other
shrubs, as a low, informal hedge plant, or as a cascade.
The honey-scented, tubular
blossoms of Twist of Lime™ Abelia are one of my greatest butterfly and
hummingbird attractors, and are actually edible in salads or candied. In
Astrological reports, the shrub Abelia is placed under the dominion of the
planet Moon, if you go for that sort of thing. Folklore tells that many baby
girls were named after the plant Abelia because of its continually fresh,
evergreen nature. Post a photo if you’re growing Twist of Lime™ Abelia too.